Visible signs of love and the Christmas story
I recently met Kelly Andrew and Ethan Lynette while spending a day with my wife poking around in Bellingham, Washington.
Driving through the Fairhaven district, I happened upon an old brick office building that caught my attention. The sign above the front door read Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.
Anyone familiar with Frank Capra's timeless movie "It's a Wonderful Life" recognizes it as the family business that Jimmy Stewart's character operated after his father's untimely death. Because I am a huge fan of the movie and have written a couple books and several articles about this inspirational film, I had to stop and take a photo of the building with the sign.
While I was snapping a couple pictures, Kelly came to the door. I asked the obvious question. "Is this really a building and loan business?"
With a smile, Kelly told me that the building actually housed a fertility clinic. He quickly added that the professional signage was simply an homage to a movie he and his business partner loved.
He offered to give me a tour of the building and introduced me to his business partner, Ethan. I learned that Kelly and Ethan met in second grade, became close friends in high school and went into business together in 2007.
Because they both loved "It's a Wonderful Life" (watching it with their families each Christmas), they would often throw around quotes from the movie at work just for fun.
When they bought the historic brick building five years ago, it just seemed right to name it Bailey Brothers Building and Loan. The sign was a tangible expression of their love for the film.
Since meeting Kelly and Ethan a couple months ago, I've reflected on the concept of going public with what you love. We do it with our favorite NFL team. The flag that flies in front of our home makes it clear to all who drive by who we cheer for each weekend. During campaign season, the signs planted in our front yard provide tangible proof as to who we want to win.
This month marks the 38th anniversary of when I went public with my love for my wife. Two days after Christmas in 1982, I asked Wendy's father for his firstborn's hand in marriage.
That very afternoon while playing a game of Scrabble in a park, I popped the question and placed a ring on her finger. That diamond ring was a visible sign of who I loved.
The Christmas season is based on the central truth of the Christian faith. It asserts that by being born as one of us, the Creator went public with His love for His creation. Rather than simply conveying His desire for a relationship with those made in His image through parchments and prophets, God provided a sign.
In the birth of Jesus, we are given a gift that conveys the love of the Giver. Like the diamond ring I gave Wendy, that baby is proof that God's love for the world is unmistakable and unconditional.
Speaking of babies, all three of my daughters were born in Concord, California. That's the same town where jazz great Dave Brubeck began running the human race.
I really like the contemporary Christmas carol in our church hymnal written by Dave Brubeck and his wife. In addition to its haunting melody and syncopated rhythm, the title says it all: "God's Love Made Visible."
And that, my friends, is what Christmas is all about. In the Bethlehem baby, we are given the ultimate sign. It is proof of how He feels about you and me.
• Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos writes about faith and religion, A former Naperville pastor, he now lives in Washington.